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DVD Review: Tales From The Darkside The Movie (1990)

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Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)

Directed by John Harrison

Tales from the Darkside The Movie (DVD)Tales from the Darkside: The Movie has a run time of a little over one and a half hours and is an anthology of three short stories. Four if you count the wraparound story that binds them all together.

In the wraparound story a young boy named Timmy is being held prisoner by a witch called Betty (Debbie Harry), who looks just like any other suburban housewife and is busy preparing for a dinner party. Timmy is destined to be dish of the day and his time is running out. In an effort to delay Betty, Timmy reads her some stories from her favourite book: Tales from the Darkside.

The first story "Lot 249", was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and is about a graduate student called Bellingham who buys an item at auction (Lot 249 ). The delivery men are dropping off his purchase (it is in rather a large box), when Bellingham's classmates, Andy and Lee, arrive on the scene, just in time to see him open it up. It contains a sarcophagus. Inside the sarcophagus there is a mummy and it is one ugly looking dude.

Andy lives in the same building as Bellingham and is on reasonably good terms with him. Lee, on the other hand, who is going out with Andy's sister Susan, is not on such good terms with Bellingham and there is more than a little animosity between the two. Bellingham feels he has been wronged by Lee, and has no qualms about turning to his new mummy for help.

"Cat From Hell" is based on a story by Stephen King. Mr Drogan, a wealthy but wheel-chair bound business man, hires a hit man named Halston. The hit? A black cat. Killing household pets is not in the killer's usual line of work though, and as Drogan explains the job to him, the angry hit-man thinks that Drogan is having a laugh at his expense. But when Drogan throws him an envelope full of money he sees that the expense is all Drogan's after all.

Halston is obviously curious to know how the cat has offended enough to warrant such a bounty on its furry little head, and he listens attentively as Drogan explains how the feline in question killed all the other members of the household. Now only Drogan remains and he plans on getting the cat before it gets him. After their chat Drogan leaves the house while Halston takes care of business. Halston has guns and knives at his disposal, and even a syringe full of poison. It should be an easy hit, but this cat really does seem to have nine lives while the hit-man has just one.

The final tale from the darkside is "Lover's Vow", written by Michael McDowell. It is the story of a down-at-heel and down on his luck artist called Preston. Things are going from bad to worse for the poor guy. First his agent dumps him, then later the same night he witnesses one of his friends being murdered by a gargoyle. There seems little point to the murder, but Preston's friend quickly goes to pieces and finally loses his head entirely, while the amazed artist can only stand and watch in shock. Before Preston has a chance to escape the gargoyle is upon him and promises to spare his life if he keeps what he has seen a secret. Preston agrees, of course; he has a good head on his shoulders and wants to keep it that way. The gargoyle scratches a warning onto Preston's chest—a little something to remember to forget him by—and then flies off into the night.

Strangely enough the encounter with the gargoyle seems to mark a turning point in Preston's life. He flees the crime-scene and runs into a beautiful girl called Carola. The dusky maiden accompanies him home, one thing leads to another, and they fall in love. Carola even puts in a good word for him with the owner of a major art gallery and Preston is suddenly a man on the up. As the years pass though, and now with two children, will Preston still manage to keep his promise to the gargoyle, and if not what will be the consequences be for his family?

I enjoyed the Tales from the Darkside movie. There is a little blood and gore here and there in all of the stories, but the movie was made in 1990 so it is  nothing in comparrsion tothe glorious techni-coloured splatter-fests available in more modern movies. I felt no need to wretch anyway, even when someone's brain was being hooked out by a bent coat hanger (useful things coat hangers). The special effects in the movie are very good, but again, nothing in comparison with today's CGI master pieces of technical trickery. I think viewers who have grown up on a diet of modern movies and effects may view Tales with a slightly critical eye, but older viewrs, who can remember movies with rubber monsters and the almost-invisible strings that worked them, will find it easier to appreciate the movie and concentrate on the stories.

Tales from the Darkside The Movie (DVD)

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Oh... did you want to know what happened to Timmy? Did that nasty witch Betty eat him? Sorry guys, I'm not saying: mummy is the word, the cat has got my tongue and a mean old gargoyle has sworn me to silence.

Tales from the Darkside the Movie is available to buy and rent on DVD, and is also available to stream as an instant video, but no Blu-ray option was available at the time of this review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Runtime 93 mins
Certificate 15


Debbie Harry     ...  Betty (wraparound story)
 David Forrester  ...  Priest (wraparound story)
 Matthew Lawrence  ... Timmy (wraparound story)

 Christian Slater ...  Andy (Lot 249)
 Robert Sedgwick ...   Lee (Lot 249)
 Steve Buscemi    ...  Bellingham (Lot 249)
 Donald Van Horn  ...  Moving Man (Lot 249)
 Michael Deak     ...  Mummy (Lot 249)
 Julianne Moore   ...  Susan (Lot 249)
 George Guidall   ...  Museum Director (Lot 249)
 Kathleen Chalfant...  Dean (Lot 249)
 Ralph Marrero    ...  Cab driver (Lot 249)
 David Johansen   ...  Halston (Cat From Hell)
 Paul Greeno     ...   Cab driver (Cat From Hell)
 William Hickey   ...  Drogan (Cat From Hell)
 Alice Drummond   ...  Carolyn (Cat From Hell)
 Dolores Sutton   ...  Amanda (Cat From Hell)
 Mark Margolis    ...  Gage (Cat From Hell)

 James Remar      ...  Preston (Lover's Vow)
 Ashton Wise      ...  Jer (Lover's Vow)
 Philip Lenkowsky ...  Maddox (Lover's Vow)
 Robert Klein     ...  Wyatt (Lover's Vow) 
 Rae Dawn Chong   ...  Carola (Lover's Vow)
 Joe Dabenigno    ...  Cop #1 (Lover's Vow)
 Larry Silvestri  ...  Cop #2 (Lover's Vow)
 Donna Davidge    ...  Gallery Patron (Lover's Vow)
 Nicole Leach     ...  Margaret (Lover's Vow)
 Daniel Harrison  ...  John (Lover's Vow)

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